Christmas bird count wraps up, features two more rare visitors

Published 10:18 am Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Carolina wren spent several weeks inside an abandoned oriole nest inside Brian Plath’s garage. It was 1 of 5 such wrens seen during this year’s count. -- Photo provided by Brian Plath

The 113th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count wrapped up on Jan. 5, and once again, Austinites contributed with their own sightings.

A common goldeneye floats on Turtle Creek Dec. 16, one of 44 species seen during the 38th Austin Audubon Christmas Bird Count. -- Photo provided by Richard Smaby

Twenty-three Austin birders tallied their counts on Dec. 17 — whether at bird feeders or out in the field — and counted 42 total species of birds on that day. While that’s fewer than what participants normally see, they were still enthused.

For the first time, area birdwatchers reported seeing a ring-necked duck and a cackling goose during this year’s count week, bringing the total to 44; however, those sightings didn’t fall on the official count day.

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“You can only count the species you see, officially, on that day,” Dorsey said.

Around the nation, local birders could count their

Pete Van Proosdy, who participates in the count every year, reported seeing 35 species just by himself.

“That was my personal record,” Van Proosdy said.

Van Proosdy was one of several who were up well before dawn participating in the owl count. Though it’s still dark out, bird watchers use their ears to identify the separate species. They play recording of the owls to draw them in close enough to hear their calls. Van Proosdy loves it.

“In college, I studied outdoor education, and I really fell in love with nature,” he said.

Like the others, Van Proosdy knows all about the history of the Christmas Bird Count, especially the beginning of it — the very strange beginning. During the first year, birdwatchers not only counted the birds, they shot them.

“We just count them now, we don’t shoot them,” Van Proosdy joked.

Still, the possibility of tallying new species each year keeps the event interesting, much like it did last year, when several people witnessed the rare, spotted towhee in one Austin yard, along with a bufflehead duck elsewhere.

Other highlights from 2012 included a tally of 2,500 Canada geese, 24 bald eagles, a Carolina wren inhabiting an abandoned oriole nest in Brian Plath’s garage, and reports of snowy owls near Blooming Prairie.